PopCares Inspiring Next Generation to Volunteer
St. Pierre's death seven years ago from lung cancer inspired his children to memorialize him by giving to others suffering from the same dread disease. They established PopCares Inc., which has since grown into a local institution that's provided more than $400,000 to families and individuals dealing with cancer, with $87,800 distributed to date this year alone.
But that's not enough, said 8-year-old Mason Stred, who raised $2,500 last year for the organization selling "rainbow rocks" and was recognized with a Junior Spirit of Kindness Award.
"I'd like to see a kids committee to raise money for children in our area who are battling cancer," he said at Saturday's annual Chicken Dinner and Auction fundraiser at Greylock Works. "Maybe a mother/son dinner dance on the Mother's Day Weekend might be a wonderful way to raise money for PopCares."
While Mason was making plans to sell tickets for dinner and dancing to double his last donation, PopCares was also recognizing the effort being done on behalf of the group by the SkillsUSA team at McCann Technical School. The students were honored with a Community Partner Award, accepted on their behalf by adviser Cynthia Tinney, for the volunteer work they've done at the group's pancake breakfast and spaghetti dinner, and serving up hot cocoa during the Christmas tree sales.
"They always seem to be a part of everything good that happens in our area," said Tammy St. Pierre.
These youngest supporters are a testament to the impact that PopCares has had, largely shown by the 600 or so diners at the annual gala who enthusiastically bid up to $330 for platters of whoopie pies, dropped thousands of tickets for a chance at gift certificates and baskets in the chinese auction and penned in bids at the silent auction. Last year's event raised $43,000.
Bill St. Pierre joked that he wouldn't have believed it you'd told him seven years ago that there'd be a turnout like this or that he'd be in front of the speaking.
"If you'd have told me seven years ago that the people of Northern Berkshire County are some of the most loving, caring, thoughtful and generous people they are, I would have told you I agree because I see it time and time again," he said.
"It's a pay-it-forward kind of mentality that makes you want to help others the way they helped you," said Tammy St. Pierre. "It's incredibly humbling to be on the receiving end but it's a joy to be on the giving end."
St. Pierre, the wife of Bill St. Pierre, found herself on the receiving end of a PopCares check when she was struggling through chemo treatments.
Her first instinct was to give it back, but a "wise woman" told her it was an act of kindness and she should just say thank you. She and her husband put the money toward a golden doodle named Heidi to keep her company when she was all alone.
"She is a constant reminder that my community stood behind me and supported me through a very difficult time," St. Pierre said. Cancer doesn't care if you're old or young, rich or poor, or your race, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation, she said, but PopCares does.
"PopCares provides for all people dealing with cancer in our community. Of course, we provide financial help but our true provision is hope ... the hope of someone who cares about you ... hope shows our humanity, it shows that compassion and love still exists in a world that seems like it is spinning out of control way too often."
The group also honored Suzy Helme, the city's director of tourism and community events, with a Community Partner Award for the work she's done on behalf of the nonprofit and other groups and received a check of $1,750 from a local golf tournament.
Tammy St. Pierre teared up in presenting the Henry Bounds Spirit of Kindness Award to her mother-in-law, Dolores, on what would have been her 62nd wedding anniversary.
"Having lost the love of her life to lung cancer seven years ago, she continued his legacy not only through PopCares but through the children that she and Pop nurtured and taught how to be the loving, caring, outstanding men and women that they are today."
Bob St. Pierre, the organization's president, recalled how his father would always work the muscular dystrophy telethon and go out of his way to help people he didn't know. One time, he gave money to a young woman who was stranded and she insisted he take her watch in trade. St. Pierre said he keeps the watch on his nightstand to remind him about the importance of helping others.
"Pop found the secret to happiness," he said. "I guarantee you that the next time you're feeling down if you go out of your way to help someone or do something nice for someone, you will both walk away with a smile on your face."
The event was hosted at Greylock Works and catered by David Nichols and the staff of Bountifare; local businesses supported the event and the main sponsor was MountainOne. The St. Pierres thanked the volunteers who helped set up and run the event and the many people and organizations that provided donations and articles to be raffled and auctioned.
Tags: annual dinner, cancer support, popcares,
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